“If I opened my heart, there’d be no space for air”
Given that, as regular readers will know, I tend to think of Julie Atherton as something close to the Second Coming, I was a little trepidatious at the prospect of her new CD No Space for Air when it was first announced as an album embracing her rockier side and moving away from the musical theatre repertoire she is best known for. I almost cracked when I heard there was a Linkin Park song on there as I have never knowingly listened to one of their songs in my life! But I stuck with it, trusted in Julie, and was rewarded with a great listen.
For if there is a rock chick inside Atherton, it is a fairly mellow one. The aforementioned Linkin Park song ‘Crawling’ is a gorgeous string-laden number with gently strummed guitars a little at odds with the angst-ridden lyrics: a very pleasant surprise but I’m happy without ever having to listen to the original. Likewise, Skunk Anansie’s ‘Weak’ is stripped back to an almost acoustic rendition, piano-led this time but equally raw lyrically, showing a different side but still feeling authentic. Including Tori Amos’ quirky ‘Leather’ is a nice touch, allowing a little vocal playfulness, but a rendition of Shawn Colvin’s ‘Never Saw Blue Like That’ is probably the best thing on the album. Performed with such subtle restraint with a simple guitar accompaniment, it is just captivating.
But she is musical theatre through and through and new writing is particularly strongly represented here. New composers like Michael Bruce and Lance Horne have their songs ‘Blind’ and ‘Anywhere But Here’ respectively sung the hell out of, and arranger and pianist for the album Craig Adams’ song ‘Lost In Translation’ is brilliantly delivered, putting a little unexpected twist on matters. Sondheim is on here too, but the version of Follies’ ‘Losing My Mind’ is completely unlike any version you’ll have heard before, best experienced blind if you haven’t heard it yet, and a canny way to subvert expectations.
It is perhaps predictable that I loved this album, but it really does reward purchase as a superbly sequenced mix of pop, rock and musical theatre, sung by a woman with a simply fearsome talent that, if there is any justice in this world, is destined to become recognised as one of the finest working in the country.